I use a manual wheelchair and I’d like to take a short break to a place that has hot springs, accessible trails and some type of accessible lodging. I can transfer from my wheelchair to a bath bench, so I don’t need a roll-in shower, but I would like a bathtub that has grab bars and a hand-held showerhead. I live in Tacoma, and I’d be willing to drive a maximum of five hours to get to a place like this. Do you have any suggestions?
Right off the top of my head, I’d say that Olympic National Park (360-565-3130, www.nps.gov/olym) meets all of your requirements. It’s about a three-hour drive from Tacoma and it boasts accessible lodging, trails and even an accessible hot springs.
You’ll find the hot springs in the Sol Duc area of the park, which is southwest of Port Angeles, off of Highway 101. These curative hot springs were well known to the native Quileute Indians; in fact Sol Duc is an Indian word that means “sparkling water”. Today the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort (888-896-3818, www.olympicnationalparks.com/activities/hot-springs.aspx) features a variety of thermal pools that are available to day use guests.
There’s ramp access to the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort front office, with barrier-free access to the pools in back. The pool area features good pathway access, and the complex also includes barrier-free changing rooms and accessible restrooms. The mineral wading pool is reserved for children under three, but the Large Mineral Fountain Pool (101°) and the Freshwater Pool (50° to 80°) feature ramp access. There is also a portable pool lift available for these pools or for the Medium Mineral Pool (104°), which isn’t ramped. All in all it’s a very accessible set up.
My favorite accessible trail in the park is located on the shore of Lake Crescent, which is a short drive north from Sol Duc. The Moments in Time Trail is a .6-mile loop that winds through the forest and includes plaques with reflective quotes, so visitors can “reflect in this moment in time”. Although there are a few ruts in the beginning, they are easy to dodge, and this hard-packed dirt trail is wide and level and doable for most folks.
As far as accessible lodging goes, there are a number of choices in the park, but Lake Crescent Lodge (888-896-3818, www.olympicnationalparks.com/accommodations/lake-crescent-resort.aspx) will work nicely for your purposes. It’s within walking distance of the Moments in Time Trail, and just a short drive from Sol Duc. And although this 1915 lodge is the oldest property in Olympic National Park, recent access upgrades have made it even more accessible.
The new lakeside Marymere wing offers the most accessible rooms. Room 101 features wide doorways and good pathway access. It’s furnished with two 24-inch high queen-sized beds, with wheelchair access on both sides. The bathroom features a full five-foot turning radius, and it’s equipped with a tub/shower combination with grab bars, a hand-held showerhead and a wooden shower bench. The toilet grab bars are located on the back and right walls (as seated), and the bathroom also includes a roll-under sink. A plastic shower chair is available upon request. Room 102, which is located next door, has the same access features.
Additionally both rooms have access to a shared back porch, which offers a good view of the lake. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the sunset after a long day of exploring all that Olympic National Park has to offer.
For more information on other accessible sights and lodging options in Olympic National Park, pick up a copy of Barrier-Free Travels; Olympic and Mount Rainer National Parks for Wheelers and Slow Walkers (www.BarrierFreeOlympic.com), which will be released later this summer.